Sexual Health


The Basics of Consent

The decision to have sex is a personal one. Only you can decide when you want to have it, and with whom you want to do it. Consent means that everyone involved in the activity agrees to it. Permission should be asked for all activities, including kissing, touching, having penetrative or non-penetrative sex, and everything in between. If you want to have sex with someone, their consent must be clear before you both proceed. The “yes” must be enthusiastic, and the other person’s body language should indicate that they are comfortable with the activity. 

Consent should also be ongoing. This means that at any point during the sexual activity you and your partner(s) have the right to change your mind and say no to the activity. No means no. 

Consent cannot be given if any of the people involved are drunk or high, someone is in a position of power over another person or if anyone is being coercive.

Asking for Consent

Sometimes asking for consent might be awkward, but that’s ok! Although it might be a little bit awkward it’s important to ask for consent every step of the way. For example, if someone accepted to kiss it might not mean that they have consented to take their clothes off or to do anything further. When asking for consent try to be direct by clearly stating and naming the act for which you’re asking consent; for example: “I would like to kiss you now, is that ok with you”? If someone does not consent, you should stop, and ask what they would rather do.

If you find yourself in the moment and you feel awkward or you don’t know what to say consider asking:

  • “How are you feeling right now?”
  • “What would you like me to do next”?
  • “Is it ok if I ___”
  • “Are you comfortable if I ___”
  • “Should I keep going?”

Age of Consent

In Canada, the legal age of consent is 16. This means that this is the legal age that a young person can make the decision to have sex. However, if a person is 16 years old, they cannot consent if the other person is in a position of power/authority (eg. a teacher, a coach, a doctor), or if the activity is exploitive (guilt-tripping, etc.).

If you are 14 or 15 and you’re thinking of having sex, you can only consent to a partner who is less than 5 years older than you and is not in a position of authority. If you are 12 or 13 you can only consent if your partner is less than 2 years older than you. Children under 12 cannot consent to any type of sexual activity.

Content Warning: The next section discusses sexual assault and the impacts it can have on one's mental health.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact that happens without explicit and voluntary consent. Sexual assault can take many forms including:

  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Forced kissing
  • Forced sex (i.e. rape)

Force does not always mean physical pressure. It can also include manipulation and emotional or psychological coercion.

Sexual assault is very prevalent in society, and this is due to many factors. Some of these factors include the hyper-sexualization of female bodies (especially black and brown bodies), the encouragement and celebration by the society of hyper-aggressive male behavior (as seen in media/movies), and the trivialization of sexual assault because of societal attitudes about gender (i.e. rape culture). 

Just because something is common in society does not make it ok. If you hear or see something inappropriate, call it out!

In addition to experiencing sexual assault, a lot of people might also experience sexual harassment in their day-to-day life. Sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. It includes things such as cat-calling, using sexual slurs, and sexually suggestive signals. Sexual harassment can be verbal or non-verbal, and it can also be physical.

Verbal sexual harassments can include:

  • Making sexual comments about someone’s body or their clothes
  • Whistling at someone
  • Repeatedly asking/pressuring someone who is not interested to go out

Non-verbal sexual harassments can include:

  • Looking a person up and down
  • Making sexual gestures with hands or body movement
  • Making facial expressions such as winking, or licking lips

Physical sexual harassments can include:

  • Intentionally brushing up against a person
  • Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person
  • Touching someone’s hair, clothing, or body without their consent

No matter what some people might say, a person did not give their consent if:

  • They were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • They were asleep or passed out
  • They are too young to consent to their partners
  • Their partner(s) is in a position of power or authority over them

Sexual assault or harassment can happen to anyone of any gender, and anyone can commit sexual assault. Sexual violence is often committed by someone close to the survivor. This could include a family member, an acquaintance, a classmate, a teacher, a family friend, or someone the person is dating. However, sexual assault can also be committed by a stranger.

Effects of sexual assault can include:

  • Excessive sadness, low moods, and/or anger
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Flashbacks
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Physical health effects (i.e. STIs, unwanted pregnancy)

Survivors of sexual violence are never to be blamed for what happened. Even if they:

  • Previously consented to have sex with the person in the past
  • Consented to some sexual activities
  • Used alcohol or drugs
  • Changed their mind after they gave consent

The only person at fault and who should be held responsible is the person(s) who committed the sexual assault. 

Asking for help after experiencing sexual assault can be incredibly difficult, and a person who has experienced assault might be afraid to share their story for many reasons including fear of what might happen, or being afraid they might not be believed.

If you have experienced sexual assault, we want you to know that we believe you, you are seen, you are not alone, you are valid, and your worth is not tied to what happened to you.

Tips for Getting Help

Seeking support is a brave step, but it can be a scary thing to do. After experiencing assault it’s important to give yourself room to process what happened to you. This might take a long time, but that is completely ok. Take your time. When you are ready to report what happened, you can then take some of the following steps:

  • Make sure you’re safe before you ask for help. Go to a safe space, or if the person that assaulted you is someone you live with, consider quickly stepping out, or take advantage of your time outside to slip someone a note.
  • Consider getting medical care. If you are comfortable, go to any emergency room where they can give you medicines that help prevent STIs or an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Reach out to a trusted person such as a teacher, a guardian, an older sibling, or an elder and share your story with them, and ask them for support. This can greatly contribute to your healing journey.
  • Think about reaching out to the police. Sexual assault is a crime and you have the right to press charges. However, if you are not comfortable with this, that is totally ok. If you do not want to call the police yourself, consider asking a trusted friend or a crisis counselor to call for you.

If someone discloses to you that they have been sexually assaulted, it’s very important to be supportive and non-judgmental, because to a survivor it can be extremely difficult to disclose this information. It might not be easy to know what to say when a person tells you this. Check out this link to learn how you can be supportive and contribute to the survivor’s healing journey, and check out this page for more information on what you can do if someone discloses to you.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault recently or in the past, and you want to talk to someone about it, look through this page to find support, information lines, and more resources.

Check out this link to find a community center near you that provides supports for survivors of sexual assault. You are not alone.

Check out our Groups and Workshops to learn about our group workshop on Boundaries & Consent. We also have private, free virtual appointments available with our Mental Health Therapists and Peer Support Worker.


Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (sace.ca)

Whatissh.PDF (un.org)

Consent Conversations | Sexual Assault Centre Of Edmonton (sace.ca)

What is sexual harassment? | Abuse and violence | ReachOut Australia

RAINN | The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact emergency services (9-1-1) now.